KPI Reports 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Business Metrics

Semrush Team

Oct 09, 202314 min read
KPI Report

TABLE OF CONTENTS

KPI reports are increasingly vital as businesses strive to achieve their objectives and stay competitive.

In this article, we’ll explore what KPI reports are and why they’re so important. We’ll also share steps for creating them. We’ll then detail different types of reports you can use to make informed decisions that drive success.

Let’s start with the basics.

What Is a KPI?

A KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, is a measurable value of how well your company is achieving specific business objectives over time. 

Think of a KPI as a compass. 

A compass guides you to figure out your current location and where to go. Similarly, a KPI tracks your progress in specific areas of performance in a business. For example, sales growth. 

Both help you determine if you’re in the right position and moving in the desired direction. And enable you to make necessary adjustments along the way. 

KPIs apply to every type and size of organization. From a small business tracking monthly sales to a multinational corporation monitoring global supply chain efficiency.

Businesses can customize KPIs to suit their specific needs and objectives. Reporting on them indicates what’s working, or not.

What Is a KPI Report?

A KPI report provides a snapshot of an organization’s performance in terms of its key goals. Every report targets specific objectives, such as: 

  • Assessing overall business performance
  • Evaluating a specific department
  • Analyzing a particular project

KPI reporting is an essential tool for performance tracking that allows businesses to quantitatively assess their progress over time. (We’ll talk about specific kinds of KPI reports later.) 

KPI reports usually include different types of data visualization—think charts, graphs, and tables. These elements illustrate trends, patterns, and insights in an easily digestible format. 

Like this:

Facebook engagement trend graph

Visuals also help stakeholders grasp complex metrics at a glance. 

You’ll find both current and historical data in most KPI report templates. These allow you to perform comparative analysis over different periods. 

Why Are KPI Reports Important?

KPI reports provide detailed insights into performance. This way, businesses can identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. 

That information can guide your strategic decision-making.

Being visually easy to interpret, reports allow stakeholders at all levels to grasp the essential details without getting lost in the data.

Think about it: 

If you can’t understand where you are, how can you plan where you’re going? 

KPI reports essentially help you: 

  • Strategize 
  • Make informed decisions
  • Navigate the market’s complexities

You can use these reports to align your resources and efforts toward long-term success.

How Is a KPI Report Different from a KPI Dashboard?

Confused? Let’s clarify. 

A KPI dashboard provides a real-time snapshot of key performance metrics. 

A traditional KPI dashboard enables quick assessments but doesn’t offer a comprehensive understanding. It allows you to view data from different angles by:

  • Filtering
  • Drilling down
  • Changing parameters

Meanwhile, a KPI report offers an in-depth analysis of a business’s performance over time

It facilitates a deeper perception of the data found on a KPI dashboard. So you can uncover trends, patterns, and underlying factors with features like:

  • Commentary
  • Insights
  • Visualizations

Here’s what a Google Analytics dashboard of KPIs looks like:

Google Analytics dashboard of KPIs

You can see there’s a lot to digest in one glance. From here, you can generate different reports to narrow your focus.

To summarize:

A traditional dashboard’s interactivity allows quick assessments and a current view of performance. But it doesn’t offer the same contextual understanding as a report, with its historical analysis and interpretation.

Luckily, most modern dashboards give you the best of both worlds. 

How?

You get immediate insights through the dashboard. As well as a deeper, more considered examination through downloadable reports.

For instance, Semrush’s My Reports tool integrates data from multiple dashboards. It allows you to see all your data in one place, but also to generate useful, in-depth reports. (More on this tool later).

With those essentials covered, let’s move on to KPI report creation.

9 Steps to Create a KPI Report (with Best Practices)

The report creation process generally involves the following steps:

Step 1: Define Goals

Establish long-term goals that you hope to achieve (e.g., the business objectives you’ll build your KPI report around). A clear strategy and objective will help you set the right KPIs to track.

Make your goals easier to measure by breaking them down into SMART objectives. 

SMART marketing objectives

For example, your long-term goal may be to increase website traffic within a year. 

What short-term objectives can you achieve within that time frame to reach your target? 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Increase organic search traffic by 10% in six months
  • Increase paid search impressions by 20% in three months
  • Double social media referral visits in two months

Your short-term goals will then direct you to the KPIs you need to track to measure your progress.

Step 2: Identify Relevant KPIs

Select metrics that will show your progress toward your goals. 

Base your choice of KPIs on your goals and data availability. But you should also consider factors like industry benchmarks and competitor performance.

The right KPI report contains accurate and up-to-date information that you can use to make timely decisions.

Semrush’s My Reports tool makes it easy to track the right KPIs in your report. It transforms complex analytics dashboards into easy-to-read reports. These reports bridge the gap between real-time monitoring and in-depth analysis. 

Let’s return to our earlier example. Say you’re creating a marketing KPI report to show progress toward your “increase web traffic” goal. 

Start by selecting one of the pre-made report templates. Or start from scratch.

Semrush’s My Reports tool landing page

To build a custom report, use the widgets on the left to guide you. You’ll get a list of KPI categories you can include. 

"Widgets" menu on the left in My Reports tool

For example: 

Click on “Domain Analytics” to track website traffic.

"Domain Analytics" highlighted under Widgets menu

Since your focus is organic search traffic, select “Organic Research.”

“Organic Research” highlighted under Domain Analytics

Next, choose from different KPI options. Drag and drop the widgets to build your report.

Building "Traffic: Organic vs Paid" report

Set goals and thresholds for each metric you include in the report. That way, you’ll be able to track performance at a glance.

Step 3: Gather Data

Decide which data sources to pull your report from. Make sure you get all the information you need to measure the KPIs you’ve defined.

There are plenty of data sources available—databases, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, marketing platforms, and even manual spreadsheets. 

Verify that each data source directly correlates with the KPI you’re tracking. 

For example: 

If you're measuring customer engagement, a CRM system might be more appropriate than a financial database.

Each source should also provide accurate and consistent information. Cross-check and validate your data sets to ensure they offer dependable data over time. 

Semrush integrates with many data points like Google Data Studio and Google Analytics. 

My Reports integrations highlighted in the menu

These integrations allow it to pull information from anywhere to centralize data collection and generate relevant reports.

However, not all data is useful. Collecting irrelevant information can clutter the analysis. 

Important: Audit your sources and trim the excess. 

Focus solely on the data that aligns with your target KPIs and reporting objectives. Maintaining a sharp focus on what truly matters will improve the report’s clarity.

Step 4: Analyze the Data

Once you’ve got your KPI data, analyze it to help stakeholders understand what it means.

First off: Know what each data point represents in the context of your goals and the larger business landscape. 

Suppose you’re analyzing customer feedback. Ask yourself:

  • What topics are customers talking about? 
  • Are there any interesting patterns to consider?

Then, look at the data across different time frames. Consider:

  • How does customer satisfaction vary week over week or month over month? 
  • What factors are driving these changes?

Next, look at any anomalies. 

Spot any inconsistencies or outliers that might signal an underlying issue or an area of opportunity. Are certain products or services performing disproportionately better than others?

Study heat maps, line graphs, and pie charts. With visual representations, you can spot patterns more quickly and drill down into the details as necessary.

Semrush automatically generates these charts so you can visualize your data: 

Traffic Analytics report

Step 5: Create the Report 

Document your findings, including an analysis and recommendations for improvement.

Consider your target audience and how “in the loop” they are. 

For example: 

The C-suite might need a more detailed explanation for a data set. Whereas department heads may just want the takeaway.

Start with a summary of the key takeaways. Mention the most important findings and any recommendations for improvement.

Then, provide a step-by-step explanation of the data analysis process. Include text to support visual elements and give readers an instant understanding of the context. 

Here’s how you do it:

Go to the “Formatting” tab in “My Reports.”

“Formatting” tab in “My Reports”

Drag and drop text boxes that add detail to the data you’ve already included.

Drag and drop text box highlighted

Include any relevant references and resources to support your analysis and conclusions. 

You should also draw connections to the existing business strategies or plans you were measuring against initially. So decision makers will be in a better position to understand how they can apply your findings to achieve their goals.

Finally, provide recommendations on any next steps.

Based on your findings, ask: 

  • What specific actions should you take? 
  • Is it necessary to adjust the existing strategies or plans in light of the data? 

Step 6: Decide on Distribution Channels

The next step is to make sure your report and its findings get in front of the right people. 

Plan out how you’ll distribute the report so key stakeholders can learn from and act on the data. This could be via email, shared network drives, or a business intelligence platform.

Assess the needs and preferences of your audience. Some stakeholders might prefer a simple PDF summary. Others might want access to a live dashboard that lets them interact with the data in real time.

To share your report with Semrush, click on “Generate PDF Report.” 

“Generate PDF Report” button highlighted

From here, you can select how to distribute it. Email it or download it as an attachment. 

"Generate PDF" popup window

When deciding where to store the report, consider how people will access it: 

  • Will recipients need a username and password? 
  • Do users have enough access rights to the shared network or platform?

Sending out the report via email? Provide instructions on how to download, view, and print the document. 

For a high-priority report that needs immediate attention: Use direct communication channels like email or instant messaging platforms. 

For reports that stakeholders reference periodically: Store these on shared network drives.

Consider also adding an expiration date for download links so people don’t access out-of-date reports.

Step 7: Review and Update 

Schedule regular reviews of the KPI report to check that it aligns with current objectives. And that the KPIs continue to be relevant.

What if business goals shift or the market landscape changes? 

Make the necessary adjustments to the report. Modify or add new KPIs that align with the updated focus.

Ask for feedback soon after you distribute it while it’s still fresh in people’s minds. 

Feedback helps you gauge how useful people found the report. Use surveys or have one-on-one conversations with stakeholders to get their opinions about the document. It allows them to share additional insights you may not have included in the report.

Real-time KPI dashboards that continuously update data are also a great option. Look for any tool that provides a live dashboard. Your report data will always be current, allowing more immediate responses to trends or issues.

Keep a record of any updates or modifications to the KPI report. Documentation will maintain consistency and provide valuable context for future analyses.

Monitoring and updating the KPI report is an ongoing responsibility. It’s how you ensure your report remains a dynamic, responsive “compass” to guide your business toward its desired outcomes.

KPI Report Examples

You can create different types of KPI reports depending on their purpose.

Below is an overview of various kinds of reports for measuring performance in specific business areas.

SEO KPI Report

SEO KPI reports cover metrics related to things like: 

  • Rankings for specific keywords 
  • Backlink profiles 
  • Conversion rates from organic search traffic 

They’re essential to measure how well your website performs in search engine results. And to find areas for improvement—like optimizing page structure or increasing keyword density.

Semrush lets you automatically create all kinds of SEOKPI reports. 

How?

For example, select the “Organic Search Positions” template in “My Reports.”

“Organic Search Positions” template highlighted in “My Reports”

Enter your domain to pull relevant analytics.

“Organic Search Positions” popup window

Semrush then generates a comprehensive report.

Organic Search Positions report

Semrush also has plenty of SEO reporting templates you can choose from—such as monthly SEO reports. 

These templates allow you to get a more detailed analysis of specific KPIs. For instance, digging into the results of a website audit, a competitive analysis, or the success of a marketing campaign. 

Pro tip: Integrate Google Analytics with Semrush for even deeper SEO insights to ace your organic search performance. 

Content Marketing KPI Report

A content marketing KPI report shows you how well your content is engaging your audience and driving business goals. 

You can include:

  • Podcast downloads
  • Blog visits
  • Social media engagement metrics
  • Content shareability

Everything you need to measure the effectiveness of your content.

You can also create a content funnel report. To see, step by step, how users engage with your content and convert—from first contact to purchase or subscription.

Then, easily identify any drop-off points that may indicate an issue with the user experience.

Use Semrush’s ImpactHero tool to analyze how successful your content is at each stage of the funnel.

Give it time (at least one day) to collect data after setup. Return to the tool later and enter your domain to generate the report. 

ImpactHero Setup page

The first screen gives you an overview of your content’s performance.

ImpactHero Overview report

Drill down into more data by choosing one of the other tabs across the top. 

The “Explorer” tab groups content performance by different stages of the funnel. Namely:

  • Attraction shows data on the content that’s most effective in attracting your target audience to your site
ImpactHero “Attraction” tab
  • Impact reveals which content keeps your potential customers on your site and nurtures them through the funnel
  • Conversion lets you know which content is most effective at converting your website visitors

Social Media Marketing KPI Report

You can assess your social media marketing efforts using a social media KPI report. 

Get an overview of: 

  • How well your posts are doing
  • Whether they effectively engage your followers 
  • What strategies have been the most successful

A tool like Semrush lets you gather all the data in one place. 

Here’s how:

Integrate your social profiles with Semrush Social.

Semrush Social Media Marketing Platform landing page

Now you’re all set to create a comprehensive social media report. Proceed to pick KPIs from the “Social Media Toolkit” widget in “My Reports.”

“Social Media Toolkit” widget highlighted in “My Reports”

You can include metrics like: 

  • Follower growth
  • Post engagement rate
  • Click-through rates (CTRs) to other sites from shared content
  • Number of leads generated from social media campaigns

Look at your social media KPI report to identify what works (and what doesn’t) in terms of content, visuals, timing, etc. You’ll find ways to maximize the impact of your social media presence. 

Digital Advertising KPI Report

A Digital Advertising KPI report tracks the success and performance of your online advertising campaigns. 

It highlights ad metrics including: 

  • CTR
  • Conversion rates
  • Impressions 
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Return on investment 

Helping you gauge how effectively a campaign meets its objectives. 

Sales KPI Report

A sales KPI report provides an in-depth look into sales performance. It may include metrics like: 

  • Sales revenue
  • Lead conversion rates
  • Sales by region
  • Sales growth

This kind of report shows you what strategies are working and potential bottlenecks. As well as how close the team is to reaching sales targets. 

You can break it down by individual sales team members’ performance. Or by specific products to allow for a granular analysis.

For instance: 

If a particular region is consistently underperforming, the report might guide you to investigate. Are there training issues, market competition, or other factors at play? 

Or say a specific sales representative is surpassing all their goals. From a sales KPI report, you can identify best practices to replicate across the team. Look for data on the activities the rep completes regularly or the ways they reach out to customers.

Finance KPI Report

A finance KPI report tracks key financial performance indicators to measure an organization’s financial health. 

It might feature these metrics, among others: 

  • Net profit margin
  • Liquidity ratios 
  • Return on investment 

Integrate your report with tools like Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, or Excel. Or connect it with accounting software like QuickBooks or SAP for complete visibility into your bottom line. 

Types of KPIs to Report On

Which KPIs you include in your reports depends on multiple factors. Like your target audience and organizational goals. 

Here are some broad categories of KPIs you might want to track in your KPI reports:

Marketing KPIs

Marketing KPIs involve measuring any activity related to your marketing efforts. 

They’re especially useful for your social media, marketing, and communications teams. Or anyone responsible for driving engagement and creating brand awareness. 

Here are some marketing KPIs to consider for your reports:

  • Organic traffic
  • Number of leads generated
  • Conversion rates
  • Cost per lead (CPL) or cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Return on investment (ROI) from campaigns
  • Social campaign reach and engagement metrics

You can use a tool like Semrush’s Position Tracking to find data on marketing KPIs around organic and paid position in SERPs.

Enter a few keywords. The tool will automatically return data including position changes, SERP features, competitors, and top keywords.

Position Tracking "Landscape" report

Operational KPIs

Operational KPIs measure the overall efficiency of your business. 

Managers, C-level executives, and team leads use operational KPIs to understand how their teams are performing. 

Operational KPI examples include:

  • Time to market for product development
  • Labor cost per unit
  • Average customer service response time
  • Order fulfillment cycle time
  • Operational efficiency
  • Production capacity
  • Process cycle time
  • On-time delivery rate

Financial KPIs

Financial metrics focus on the monetary impact of your business activities. 

Solver Global's "KPI Analysis-Summary" report

Image Source: Solver Global

Financial KPIs are relevant across most organizational levels—whether for budgeting, planning, forecasting, or tracking expenses. They track overall financial health.

Below are some examples of financial KPIs:

  • Net profit margin
  • Revenues and growth rate
  • Operating expenses
  • Asset turnover ratio
  • Return on equity (ROE)
  • Cash flow analysis

Employee KPIs

Employee KPIs provide great insight into how well your employees are performing. They can also help you measure the impact of HR initiatives. 

They’re useful to have whether you’re looking to hire, retain, or invest in your staff. 

KPI reports on employees may feature:

  • Recruitment metrics (e.g., vacancies filled, time to hire, acceptance rates, etc.)
  • Employee retention rate
  • Employee turnover rate
  • Employee engagement
  • Employee satisfaction score
  • Cost per hire
  • Training costs per employee

Sales KPIs

Any business selling a product or service needs to know how well its sales team performs. 

Sales KPI data indicates the effectiveness of your sales team and the efficiency of your sales process. 

Red Path's "Sales Executive Dashboard"

Image Source: Red Path

Sales team heads, directors, and C-suite executives can use this data to monitor team success. 

But they’re not the only ones who have a lot to gain. 

Other departments, like marketing and finance, can also benefit from sales KPIs. To target potential customers, measure progress toward goals, and track ROI. 

Here are some typical sales KPIs:

  • Sales cycle time
  • Close rate (number of closed sales vs. total opportunities)
  • Average sale value
  • Average revenue
  • Percentage of leads converted to sales
  • Sales growth over time
  • Cost per sale (costs related to acquiring and closing a customer)
  • Win rate (number of won deals vs. total opportunities)
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

Customer KPIs

Customer KPIs focus on the health and satisfaction of your customers. 

They measure customer loyalty, track customer behavior trends, and ensure high-quality products and services. 

Include these metrics in a KPI report for customer-focused departments such as marketing or customer services. 

KPIs here include:

  • Churn rate (customers lost over a given period)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Repeat purchase rate
  • Satisfaction rate/score

Create Powerful KPI Reports with Accurate Data

For powerful KPI reports that accurately reflect the performance of your business, you need quality data.

Semrush can help you create marketing KPI reports to give you a holistic view—from your website’s health to your campaigns’ performance. 

Start by setting up your KPI reports today and track your progress over time.

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